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The Hacker Community

Hackers are more than just isolated individuals roaming the Internet looking to
cause trouble. In fact, you might be surprised to know that there is an active hacker
community flourishing on the Internet. This community has a heritage that goes
back to the 1960s and can trace its roots back to the first hackers who used to hack
into the phone company to steal long-distance service. These people eventually gave
themselves the title of phone freaks. As you will see, colorful names abound in the
hacker community.
Perhaps the best way to learn about and understand the hacker community is to
examine its various self-named members. These classifications include:

A hacker is an individual who possesses a technical mastery of computing skills and
who thrives on finding and solving technical challenges. This person usually has a
very strong UNIX and networking background. A hacker’s networking background
includes years of experience on the Internet and the ability to break into and infiltrate
other networks. Hackers can program using an assortment of programming
languages. In fact, this person can probably learn a new language in a matter of
days. The title of hacker is not something that you can claim. Instead, your peers
must give it to you. These people thrive on the admiration of their peers. In order to
earn this level of respect, an individual must share his or her knowledge. It is this
sharing of knowledge that forms the basis of the hacker community.

UNIX is one of the oldest and most powerful operating systems in the world. It’s also
one of the most advanced. UNIX provides most of the computing infrastructure that
runs the Internet today and a comprehensive understanding of UNIX’s inner workings is
a prerequisite for a true hacker.

One basic premise of this community is that no one should ever have to solve the
same problem twice. Time is too precious to waste reinventing the wheel. Therefore,
hackers share their knowledge and discoveries and as a result their status within the
hacker community grows as does the community itself.
Hackers believe that information is meant to be free and that it is their duty to make
sure that it is. Hackers are not out to do any harm. Their mission, they think, is to
seek a form of personal enlightenment, to constantly learn and explore and to
share. Of course, this is a terribly self-gratifying view but that is how hackers see
each other. They see their conduct as honorable and noble.
But the bottom line is that hackers use their computing skills to break into computers
and networks. Even though they might not do harm, it is still an unethical and
illegal act. Hacking into someone else’s computer is very much the same thing as
breaking into their home. Whether it makes them more enlightened or not is insufficient
justification for the crimes that they commit.

Another group in the hacker community is the group that gives hackers a bad
name. The individuals in this group are known as crackers. Crackers are people who
break into computers and networks with the intent of creating mischief. Crackers
tend to get a great deal of media attention and are always called hackers by the TV
news and press. This, of course, causes hackers much frustration. Hackers have little
respect for crackers and want very much to distinguish themselves from them. To a
hacker, a cracker is a lower form of life deserving no attention. Of course, crackers
always call themselves hackers.
Usually, a cracker doesn’t have anywhere near the skill set of a true hacker,
although they do posses a certain level of expertise. Mostly they substitute brute
force attacks and a handful of tricks in place of the ingenuity and mastery wielded
by hackers.

Whacker is another title that you might have heard. A whacker is essentially a person
who shares the philosophy of the hacker, but not his or her skill set. Whackers
are less sophisticated in their techniques and ability to penetrate systems. Unlike a
hacker, a whacker is someone who has never achieved the goal of making the perfect
hack. Although less technically sophisticated, whackers still posses a formidable
skill set and although they might not produce new discoveries, they are able to follow
in the footsteps of hackers and can often reproduce their feats in an effort to
learn from them.

A samurai is a hacker who decides to hire out his or her finely honed skills in order
to perform legal activities for corporations and other organizations. Samurai are
often paid by companies to try to break into their networks. The samurai is modeled
after the ancient Japanese Samurai and lives by a rigid code of honor that prohibits
the misuse of his or her craft for illegal means.

Larvas are beginner hackers. They are new to the craft and lack the years of experience
required to be a real hacker. They idolize true hackers and in time hope to
reach true hacker status.
So what do hackers, crackers, whackers, Samurai, or larva want with you or your
computer? After all there are plenty of corporate and government computers and
networks in the world that must offer far more attractive targets. Well, although
hackers, whackers, and Samurai might not be targeting them, home computers can
often be viewed as low lying fruit for crackers who want easy access to financial
information and a fertile training ground for larva to play and experiment.
But the biggest threat of all might come from a group of people not associated with
the hacker community. This group consists of teenagers and disgruntled adults with
too much time on their hands. These people usually have little if any real hacking
skills. And were it not for the information sharing code of the hacker community,
these people would never pose a threat to anybody. However, even with very little
know-how, these people can still download and execute scripts and programs developed
by real hackers. In the wrong hands, these programs seek out and detect vulnerable
computers and networks and wreak all kinds of destruction.

Other Hacker Terms
In addition to the more common titles previously presented, there are a few other
hacker terms that you should be aware of. For example, a wannabee is an individual
who is in the beginning larva stage of his or her hacking career. Wannabees are
seen as very eager pupils and can be dangerous because of their inexperience even
when their intentions are good. A dark-side hacker is an individual who for one reason
or another has lost their faith in the hacker philosophy and now uses their skills
maliciously. A demigod is a hacker with decades of experience and a worldwide reputation.

Just remember that somebody is always watching you; that on the Internet nothing is private anymore and it’s not always the bad guys that you need to be worried about. In early 2000, the FBI installed a device called the Carnivore at every major ISP that allowed them to trap and view every IP packet that crossed over the wire. It has since been renamed to a less intimidating name of CDS1000. The FBI installed this surveillance hardware and software, they say, so that they can collect court-ordered information
regarding specifically targeted individuals. It’s kind of scary but it is true. Just be careful with whatever you put into your e-mail because you never know who will read it.

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